CH council candidates address Noble neighborhood concerns
Noble Neighbors sponsored a Cleveland Heights City Council candidates forum on Oct. 3, at Noble Road Presbyterian Church. Incumbent candidates Cheryl Stephens, Melissa Yasinow and Michael Ungar participated, as did T. Nadas, who is running for a first term. Council Member Jason Stein, who is seeking re-election, was unable to attend and was represented by Council Member Carol Roe.
Noble Neighbors leader Brenda May opened the forum. She explained that questions had been sought from residents, winnowed down to three, and sent to the candidates in advance of the event. May noted that the area served by Noble Neighbors covers two of the city’s eight square miles and is home to more than a quarter of its approximately 44,000 residents. “The health of this part of the city is critical to the health of the city and school district,” she said.
Candidates were given time to make opening and closing remarks, and respond to the three questions: what they saw as assets and opportunities in Noble, how they would promote owner-occupancy, and how they would support the work already being done in the community.
Nadas talked about his experience working in health care, which involves working with and listening to others, and went on to name some of his ideas: “one-stop shopping” for city services, an improved recycling system, and more collaboration between council members and city agencies.
Roe relayed Stein’s message about his lifelong residency, his education in the public schools, his work in support of children’s programming and longer hours at the Noble Neighborhood Library, and his work addressing problem businesses in the community. He said he would not support closing Noble Elementary School.
Stephens, running for a third term, stated she had chosen Cleveland Heights after having lived in many other places. She told those assembled they could continue to count on her to maintain the city’s financial stability and promote economic and community development. (Stephens had once been the city’s planning director.)
The Noble neighborhood stood out for Ungar, he said, because of Noble Neighbors’ outreach to him. Ungar expressed his fondness for the area, and talked about raising two daughters in Cleveland Heights. He told the group he had served 20 years on the planning commission—16 as chair—and cited his work on shutting down the Arco dump site in East Cleveland as an example of his willingness to address problems relevant to Noble.
“You are not seeing me for the first time,” Yasinow told the audience, citing her regular attendance at Noble Neighbors meetings. She said her family has been in the community for five generations, and talked about the importance of encouraging citizen engagement, her work to secure the repaving of Noble Road, and her efforts in the areas of housing, neighborhood investment, owner-occupancy and fighting blight.
Ungar described the “folks in the room” as neighborhood assets and talked of his support for Noble Neighbors’ efforts to plan for its commercial districts. He spoke of his strong support for the establishment of a community development corporation (CDC), which could help address economic development and abandoned housing. He vowed to “continue to show up” and participate.
Yasinow noted the growing footprint and voice of Noble Neighbors and the neighborhood’s ability to organize, as shown by the Vandemar Street neighbors’ resistance to the development of a Circle K on the now-vacant Center Mayfield site. She mentioned development possibilities in the Noble Triangle and efforts to establish a citywide community reinvestment area (CRA), which could give homeowners tax breaks on home improvements. She made note of the many “solid renters” in Noble and the importance of good landlords.
Nadas said the city should make addressing blight a priority. He said he would like to see cafes, gyms and other amenities in the community. Among its assets, he cited Noble’s refugee population and three commercial districts, and said he would make himself available to citizens. “There should be no barriers between citizens and members of council,” he said. Both he and Ungar stressed the importance of marketing the neighborhood.
According to Roe, Stein reported seeing Noble as the city’s greatest opportunity for development, and the importance of revitalizing its commercial districts. Roe also noted Stein’s efforts to strengthen rules related to certificates of occupancy, which could result in landlords having their certificates pulled if their taxes were delinquent, and his support of tax abatement for home improvements.
Stephens told the group her entire professional career had been focused on economic development and housing and “getting things done now.” She noted the importance of collaborating with regional and state organizations toward such goals as reversing the decline in home values in the Noble area.
A video of the forum, recorded by Richard Stewart of Digizoom Media, can be viewed at www.nobleneighbors.com.
Vince Reddy is a FutureHeights board member and a 21-year resident of Cleveland Heights.